When we were deciding on our wedding venue, we already had an outdoor wedding in mind. It fit our personality: we love the beach, nature, and the sweat that comes with tropical weather.
Though looking back, I must confess that the sweat part was something I didn’t really think through at first. It was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during our garden ceremony, and my makeup turned into pebbles of perspiration on my face.
Besides the heat and sweat, there are plenty of perks to having an outdoor wedding--the sky at the background, the breeze of fresh air, real flora, and the flexibility of an open space that you can design from scratch.
Couples have taken their weddings from churches and hotel ballrooms to the beach, a cliff, a vineyard, a forest, a backyard, a park, a campsite… the list goes on.
On the other hand, an indoor wedding has its conveniences. You get your privacy. You have more control over the foot traffic in a contained space. Then there’s the obvious convenience of not having to deal with weather-related contingencies.
But whether it’s an indoor or outdoor wedding that you decide on, you can still make your uniqueness, creativity, and resourcefulness shine.
If you decide to go al fresco, I want to tell you upfront that there’s extra work that needs to be done. Like I mentioned in this post, you should treat your wedding venue as your home. You ought to extend nothing but excellent hospitality towards your guests.
But how does that look in a venue where there is no room over your head, where insects can wander freely, and temperatures, humidity, and precipitation can not be controlled?
Let me be the first to tell you that you are in for a discussion with your partner and your suppliers about these 25 things that you need to consider when planning an outdoor wedding.
1. An indoor space nearby in case weather changes
A sudden change in weather (rain and wind particularly) can throw you off - literally. While a venue that’s vulnerable to extreme weather conditions can be a treat for your more adventurous guests, it poses as a threat if the weather goes on a rampage. In cases like this, a tent might not be enough shelter. Thus you need to have an indoor space nearby even when you already have tentage for your outdoor event.
Another thing to consider would be the guests your are inviting for the venue. Elderly guests, pregnant women, kids, babies, and others who need the extra care might need some indoor comfort at some point.
2. Accessible bathrooms, or portable toilet rentals for remote venues
Needless to say, this is basic courtesy to your guests. Consider the ratio of bathrooms to your number of guests too. This article suggests having two bathrooms for every 25 guests. Beach weddings, in particular, may mean that you’ll need to share the bathroom with other guests of the property.
Consider the distance, too, of the bathrooms to your main venue. Are you okay with making grandma walk 100 meters in the sand, then queue up for the lone, unisex loo? Think of your guests’ basic comfort.
If you’re aiming for remoteness (e.g. forest), you may need to consider portable toilet rentals. The best gauge whether that’s a good idea is if your were a guest at your wedding, would you be alright with the setup? Since we attract people similar to ourselves, your friends may feel the same way. But then again, don’t forget about your elderly, pregnant women and differently-abled guests. They might have other needs altogether!
3. A cover, shelter, or holding area for your suppliers
As you consider ways to make your guests feel comfortable at the wedding, bestow the same amount of consideration to your suppliers. Most of the things they need on the day of your wedding like meals, transportation, and lodging, are usually already covered in your service contract.
With this, kindly check if your venue options have an area where they can prepare their supplies, have their meals, or wait before packing up. Again, count them and their paraphernalia (think sounds systems, musical instruments, and food carts) in when you make plans for a shelter.
4. The accessibility of the venue for the elders, parents with strollers and small kids, pregnant women and guests with disabilities
I’ve attended a wedding that had me walking up hundreds of steps while carrying my 10-kilogram baby. The wedding was fabulous. We love the couple. But the memory of that treacherous climb up and down haunted my memories. With this, I am resolved to share with future brides that your thoughtfulness about the safety and convenience of your guests will be more appreciated by them than the grand entrance doors or elaborate floral arrangements.
Imagine the walking journey of your guests from where they can be dropped off by vehicles to where you exactly want them sitting. Is any path along the way unsafe? Will it be too inconvenient? Ask the venue coordinator if there are alternative routes. Or if they have provisions to make the journey more convenient, like setting up rubber carpets on the beach for wheelchairs or strollers.
5. A sheltered walking path from drop-off area or parking spaces
Again, this is all about the accessibility of your venue. Test the walking distance from the guests’ drop-off points and parking spaces to where you want your guests to go. In case the rain suddenly pours, is there shelter for guests along the way? While, yes, you can provide umbrellas at their drop-off points, do consider the same path under extreme weather conditions.
6. The holding area for you, the bride
Is there a nearby room where you can get ready, have makeup touch-ups, or wardrobe changes? A pretty isolated venue may leave you with a tent or your bridal car as options.
If you’re going for a tent, consider having side panels to keep the space private. You can recreate the space like your own hotel room by having a cooler, mirrors, and everything else you’ll need to keep yourself feeling refreshed. All these can be rented. Like I’d always suggest, include all these costs as part of your venue budget.
Don’t forget to think about your own access to the bathroom. Because of your dress (think train, multiple layers of fabrics, 5-kilo skirt, et cetera), you’ll need extra care when using the bathroom. (Will your dress fit inside a portable toilet? Just checking!)
7. Costs involved in using any outdoor space
Needless to say, always make sure you’re getting the cost breakdown of all the various spaces you’re considering, even within the same property. For example: You might be thinking about doing your cocktails at the garden, steps away from the hotel ballroom you’re eyeing for your reception. The hotel might charge an add-on fee for that.
8. Permits involved in organising a party in a public space
The municipality office or community association might charge for a permit to organise an event in a public space. While the costs may not necessarily dissuade you from booking such a venue, possible limitations might be involved.If you and your partner are gung-ho about doing a beach wedding so you can release lanterns at the reception, you might be disappointed if the town council doesn’t approve of your idea. For this, I recommend that you and your partner are clear about what your deal breakers are before booking a venue.
9. Cost of tent rentals
If you’d like your wedding programme to be outdoors even in the event of rain, consider renting tents. You might also want to consider a tent if you’re holding a summer wedding, so your guests can get some shelter from the sweltering heat of the sun.
Do your research on the costs before even booking your venue, and check out the rental services that are in the same vicinity of your prospective venues. Costs differ from place to place. Your goal should be to keep your venue cost and tent rental costs within your venue budget.
10. Neighbor’s noise
One thing that can go out of hand (and beyond your control) on your wedding day are the distracting noises in the neighborhood. Properties advertising their outdoor spaces cannot always guarantee the behavior of their neighbors. A relaxing spa resort at the beach may be the perfect venue for a solemn outdoor ceremony, but the resort next door that holds afternoon family sports activities may compete with you for airwaves. Another example of noise competition would be a neighbor’s live band performance that may swallow up the audibility of your own band’s performance. So ask the hotel’s coordinator what activities the neighbors do on a daily basis. Better yet, go visit the neighboring properties and investigate.
11. These other extra costs related to outdoor events
- Tents and related transportation and installation costs: as explained in #9
- Delivery charges for remote locations: some vendors will charge extra transportation fees to get to areas outside of their usual coverage
- Rental of portable toilets: as explained in #2
- Hiring security: for high-risk, open locations; to make sure your guests’ or your own belongings don’t go missing
- Extra manpower: for when you’ll need to move the set-up quickly to an indoor space in the event of weather changes
- Lighting: I listed possible lighting requirements you’ll need in my Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet
- Fans: because breeze is not always a guarantee, have some industrial rental fans to keep the guests cool
- Coolers: for warmer weathers and locations, you might need some cooling equipment
- Generator: to power all your lighting, sounds systems, and other electrical equipment outdoors (Before planning our outdoor wedding, I thought that we could just plug all the equipment to a power extension connected to an indoor outlet. Wrong!)
- Transportation for guests: especially for remote locations, you may have to provide the transportation for your guests from a common meeting place
For this next part, I am assuming that you have already decided on a venue. Congratulations, you can start planning for these things:
12. How to communicate your venue and set-up to your guests
One of the most treasured feedback we’ve received from our wedding guests was “great communication of information”.
“There can’t be too much communication for a wedding event,” said one of our friends. And since then, I’ve started to believe that.
The main hosts of the wedding (that’s you and your partner!) will be too preoccupied during those times when your guests would need crucial information the most. And those moments would be when they need to get to the venue, or move to a backup venue in the event of weather changes.
So it’s best to provide all these information to your guests ahead of time - meaning, before they even get to your wedding venue. It would be great to include this in your invitations or wedding website, and to communicate these things together when you ask your guests to RSVP.
13. Communicating to your guests about the attire
Specify in your communication channels to guests (in your invitations, wedding website, et cetera) what type of venue it is. Are they going to stand on grass, sand, cobble stone or an outdoor carpet?
Give them a good lead time to prepare for their wardrobe by having this detail announced at least a month before your wedding.
14. Having mobile, easy-to-set-up decors
If you’re not going to use any tentage, the next best insurance you can have are easy-to-setup and ready-to-install ceremony and reception set-ups.
First, you’ll have to agree with your vendors how much time you can afford to wait the rain out. If the rain stops, great; then you can have your troops re-setup in a flash. I’ve seen this happen time and time again - the things that make it to the set-up are the ones that have wheels and big display pieces. For this, you must understand that a certain table’s place card slipped inside a cut cork standee that will only stay up if positioned at a certain angle will be the least of the troop’s priorities in a 20-minute re-setup - if the rain stops at all.
15. Decors and displays that won’t be blown away
I’ve been talking about the sun and the rain as key elements that can make or break an outdoor wedding plan. But let’s not forget there’s also wind.
Plan for decors that won’t easily be blown away and end up in the sea or another couple’s wedding reception. Again, you may refer back to # 14 when you decide on weighty decors. Loose paper items, fabrics, and lightweight floor decors are the usual victims of the wind’s wrath.
16. A Plan B script for your master of ceremonies (A.K.A. emcee)
After you plan your plan B in case of weather changes, brief your emcee about it. He or she is the other person, apart from your coordinator, who should know exactly what will happen in case the bad weather ensues. He or she represents both of you, so bring up with him/her how you’d like to address your guests during this critical period of logistical changes - if he/she is writing his/her own script. If you’re writing the emcee’s script yourself, please include this bit of information.
17. Consider where the sun is pointing
If you have options as to where to face your guests and yourselves during the ceremony, ask where the sun doesn’t point directly towards. If placing your guests in a specific position would ruin the concept of the backdrop that you’re aiming for, perhaps consider angling the guests even just a few degrees away from having to face the sun directly.
18. Seats that can really be sat on
With the advent of Pinterest came the unique wedding locations and creative seating furniture. We’ve attended a wedding in the forest and it was beautiful. I observed though that the older and weightier guests were not comfortable, let alone fit, on the tree stumps as seats. Again, think about how you’d want to make your guests feel comfortable. Think about the grannies, the pregnant women, and your other guests who need extra care and attention.
19. Food that won’t easily spoil
Putting out food outdoors makes it more vulnerable to changing temperatures. And you know what thrives in such? Bacteria. Especially for food that doesn’t keep in the heat.
No matter how amazing a cheese bar would look at your wedding, it might spoil even before your guests enjoy it (Unless it’s cheese fondue!). Your local caterers should know about these things so they can prepare for proper storage. If you’re going DIY, then there’s more to the food planning than just doing away with dairy on the menu. Here is a guidance I found online on DIY Weddings and Food Safety.
20. The amount of time your florals stay out
If the flowers of your choice are extremely sensitive to heat, then plan with your vendors on when to set these up. Your florists should know this. However, if you’re going DIY and it’s your friends or family who’ll do the setup, research more about the florals you’re using. If they’re not tropical and are known to easily wilt under the heat, then only pull them out right before your guests arrive.
21. Your dress
I’m talking to you, bride. A wedding dress designers’ first two questions are usually: “When is your wedding?” and “Where is it going to be?”
What they really want to find out with the second question would be the actual venue. The beach? A church? A hotel ballroom? A castle? That’s because the dress has to be functional enough to allow you to move around the wedding venue with ease. A ball gown with multiple layers of fabric is the last thing they’ll suggest for a beach wedding.
22. Your hairstyle
This is again for you, bride. An outdoor wedding in the tropics, like ours, might make you want to consider having your hair worn up. There’s just something very stressful about having your hair touch your neck or shoulders when it’s warm, you’re starting to sweat, and your hair has made its way around your neck. Do you feel me?
23. Flowers that are natural pesticides
Insects are another natural element you have to contend with outdoors. Many florists are smart enough to have flowers on their menu that repel insects. Options are citronella, lemon balm, lavender, marigolds and peppermint.
24. Outdoor weather survival kits for your guests
Thoughtful gestures for your guests include giving them the following (and in no particular order): umbrellas, fans, hats, tissue, bugs spray, water, sunscreen, first aid kits, paper towels, bath towels, scarves, pashminas, plastic heel protectors, flip flops, and other easy-to-carry accessories.
These come at extra costs, but become memorable and useful to your guests. Just make sure to place them where they can be easily seen by guests. Oftentimes, I’d only find out in photos that there were these thoughtful items at a wedding I had just attended. If I only knew, I wouldn’t have gone home with bug bites.
25. Agreeing with your fiancé on weather-related responses
Last, but definitely not the least, it’s important to agree with your fiancé on two things:
- What your plan B should be in the event of weather changes
- How you’d like to be supported/comforted if plan A doesn’t push through
Some brides end up being too emotional hours or minutes before the wedding when they hear that their plans have been overruled by the sudden weather change. Since you and your partner most likely won’t be together during this critical decision-making moment (as you both are getting ready in separate rooms), make sure to agree ahead of time on the two things I mentioned.
The groom is usually the one consulted by the wedding coordinator about the contingencies on the day itself, while the bride waits somewhere else for her dramatic entrance. Would you like to be consulted by your groom first before making any decision? You can agree to have your maid-of-honor or someone you trust to liaise with the groom on your behalf. This is in case you want to maintain the element of surprise, and not talk to your groom directly before you walk down the aisle. You can also break the “rules” of not seeing each other before the walk down the aisle and decide to pray together and make the decision together.
Whatever you think will comfort you the most, bring honor to God and one other, and provide convenience to your guests will be the decision you will want to make in the event of the unexpected.
I’ve pretty much exhausted all possible considerations for an outdoor wedding. But the truth is, there’s still a possibility for your well-laid out plans to face challenges.
What else is there to do then? Here’s something I wrote to help you prepare for any weather on your wedding day. Hope it encourages you!
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….is actually the first step.
Venue or date? Budget or guest list? Theme or venue?
Where do you begin in planning your wedding?
If you pick the venue first, it may not match your theme, budget, or fit the number of people you plan on inviting.
If you work on your budget first, how do you know what to budget for?
If you pick a theme first, you might end up frustrated if your budget isn’t enough to execute the idea you have in mind.
Oh! What a headache! Does it really need to be this difficult?
When we were planning our wedding, we received all kinds of advice from our married friends on how to get started. But amidst all the how-to’s, we heard something resonate in all of them.
Many of them have shared what a grueling process it was to agree on the hundreds of details they had to deal with. On hindsight, they all shared how they wished they had more discussions that dealt with how they really felt about all these big and small details before getting so close to each and every deadline.
The first crucial step that no one really talks about when planning their wedding is the establishment of your guiding principles. My then-fiancé-now-husband Mike and I distilled what our friends were saying, and came to the conclusion that what they hoped they had to start with were some set of these principles.
Guiding principles are a set of rules, agreements, or philosophies to help you make better and smarter choices together.
These are elaborations of what you, as a couple, believe in - which are pretty much affected by your faith and preferences. Your vision for your wedding day will likewise define your guiding principles.
They are ideally talked about and written before jumping into logistical planning, so your planning could be easily determined by what you’ve already agreed on.
We only really fully realised the benefits of having these guiding principles after our wedding day, and we could even say that these enabled us to actually enjoy planning our wedding!
That’s why I’d like to share with you these 5 things that you can have Guiding Principles for.
1. How you’d like your fiancé to feel after the wedding day
When the dust settles, what will your fiancé remember you by the way you treated him during the engagement period up until the wedding day?
I remember when I went ahead and printed out our wedding programmes without getting my fiancé’s inputs, which made him feel disrespected. I remember when he overhauled the content I wrote for our wedding website, which made me feel insulted. We both just wanted to be helpful, but we couldn't make sense of our own good intentions because we weren't communicating enough!
On a brighter note, I felt really supported by him when he prioritised me over his family. He definitely treated my in-laws very well, but he had to make careful decisions as to who gets time first when we were all in the same town days before our wedding. And that was even with the premise that he only sees his parents a few times a year! I believe my in-laws exemplified it well to him that his future wife would be priority over the family, and he was already practicing this during our engagement.
This will help determine:
- How you’ll spend time with your fiancé when you’re planning and when you’re not planning for the wedding
- How you’ll both communicate during this season
- How you’ll prioritise things
2. How you’d like your guests to feel after attending your wedding
I couldn’t have agreed more with Maya Angelou when she said,
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Our friends Angel and Abiel Pascual wrote each of their 100+ guests personalised handwritten letters. That really made my husband and I feel that they value us as part of their life.
This will help determine:
- The guest list
- The programme
- The gifts for your guests (if applicable)
- The welcome and send-off logistics of your guests
3. How you’d like your marital finances to look the day after your wedding
With the social pressures of pulling off an extravagant, most Pinterest-worthy wedding--which include but are not limited to an extraordinary prenup pictorial, the highest quality same-day-edit video, the most exotic location, and the most pompous menu--couples throw most, if not all, financial boundaries out the window.
The common justification is that it just happens once in a lifetime (ideally), and that the money can be recovered later on.
But what happens in overspending for a single day of fairytale wedding bliss is the exchange for many months or years of indebtedness and financial insecurity.
No couple in history has ever regretted being on the healthy side of finances after the wedding day, so there must be enormous benefits to making wise financial decisions while planning.
This will help determine:
- Where your funds will come from
- Your budget for each item
- Your choice of vendors
(I write more about how you can plan and commit to a wiser wedding through sound financial strategies here.)
4. How you’ll use this season to learn
The wedding is going to be your first ‘big project’ together as a couple. Your partnership in making decisions will be put to the test. The strengths and weaknesses of your characters will be most transparent.
Whatever you or your fiancé discover about each other during the process will be what you'll have to accept in marriage (or say ‘no’ to if there are serious red flags).
An openness to learn from each other and from what you’ll experience will bring you closer to one another.
This will help determine:
- How you’ll respond to conflicts
- How you’ll respond to stressors
- How you’ll communicate
5. How you’d like to honour God during your engagement and on your wedding day
The spiritual depth of a wedding can be easily taken for granted when the road leading to it gets very bumpy. That’s why it’s important to stay focused on its true purpose.
You and your groom are going to stand before the Lord and your witnesses to enter into a covenant. Your wedding day is a mirror of how both of you as believers and members of His church unite with Him.
As glorious as that sounds, often times, God is neglected altogether months leading up to the wedding day - because of stress, busyness, and fixation on the less essential parts of getting married. Couples go back to communicating with Him again when wedding planning has reached its conclusion.
But truth is, God deserves honour during the entire process of preparing for your marriage. He is the reason why you’re getting married after all!
This will help determine:
- How long your engagement will be (to read more on this, check out this article )
- How you’ll spend time with your fiancé during your engagement
- How you’ll prioritise things
- How you’ll respond to stressors
- How you’ll make financial decisions for your wedding (here's my blog series on 'Weddings & Money').
- How you’ll relate with people
Click the image to get all these questions as a printable PDF!
There you go!
I recommend you pray about these things, then schedule a date night with your fiancé to discuss about them. Encourage and show your appreciation to one another every time you both agree on each point.
Can't yet decide on something together? Take a break and pray individually whenever you disagree on certain things. Consult a married couple you both trust to help you navigate through tough discussions if you need to.
Do you need more help with going through these 5 ideas? I made a list of related yet more specific questions you can ask each other! Find them here.
Have fun during this season!
Your city’s biggest wedding fair is coming soon, and you just can’t wait!
A wedding fair is a good place to get a feel of what’s out there. Options are endless, and it’ll get you thinking about what you should be considering for your wedding.
But having a sit-down meeting with a wedding supplier is different though. By this time, most suppliers are assuming that you’ve already done your homework. So it would be considered a waste of time for both parties (you and your supplier) if you sit with them without having first discussed these 4 important things with your fiancé.
Here they are:
1. How long you want to be engaged for
“What month of the year do we want to get married?” usually is the timeline question couples ask, since couples usually weigh in factors such as weather, cost of venues, theme, and vacation leaves availability. After all, you can’t have a beach wedding during the monsoon season in the tropics.
But I encourage you to do something different.
Talk about how long (or short) you’d want to be engaged for, independent of the aesthetics and logistics of your wedding day. There are other more important considerations around the length of an engagement that can affect your spiritual health and your relationship with your fiancé than the wedding programme.
To help you for this talk, I wrote about the 5 Things You Can Consider When Deciding How Long To Be Engaged For.
2. Where you want to get married geographically
This was an obvious consideration for my husband and I when we were planning our wedding, because we weren’t living in either of our home countries. Whichever place we picked, there would still be a good amount of guests who would need to travel internationally.
This brings us to the topic of destination weddings.
People automatically assume that it’s overall more costly if it’s done overseas. But the real answer to this is not necessarily. For example, a grand ballroom wedding in your home city can be more expensive than doing it at a beach in Phuket. You can go cheap or expensive at any place.
Decide beforehand where you’d want to have your wedding. You wouldn’t be able to compare apples to apples suppliers from different countries - so suppliers’ offers are not a good gauge of whether you’d want it in country A or B.
3. Where you want to be legally married
Due to varying marriage laws across the globe, where you’d want to have a church wedding (officiated by a priest or a pastor) may not necessarily be where you can or you’d like to have your legal ceremony - especially in the case of destination weddings.
It may not even be a destination wedding. Maybe you’re considering getting married where you currently reside, or where most of your guests also reside. But due to citizenship considerations, you may not be able to legally marry there.
It’s important then to discuss beforehand where you’d want your marriage to be registered, and research on the marriage laws accordingly. You may decide to have your civil wedding done in one city and the church wedding (where you make your marriage vows public in the presence of family and friends) in another, and that’s possible too. Our legal wedding was in Singapore a few days before our wedding ceremony and reception in Bali.
On that note, we only considered ourselves married after we’ve said our vows in the presence of our family and friends - and that was our personal conviction. I found this useful blog on the theology of civil and church weddings if you have questions on this subject.
4. How you'd like this wedding planning process to look
Time and again, my husband and I have seen how the wedding planning process becomes a test of relationship, convictions, and faith for many couples. This was also true for us.
Since a test is something you’d need to prepare for, it’s a good idea to agree with your fiancé how you’d like your wedding planning process to look. Whether you’re doing a three-month engagement or a year, those months will go down in history and you’d want to go through it with grace.
An exercise we did before anything else was to write our ‘Guiding Principles’. These were rules, agreements, or philosophies that helped us make better and smarter choices together. Having this shared vision for this momentous occasion will help you navigate through the wedding planning process, which includes meeting your suppliers for the first time. I talk more about it here.
Once again, congratulations on your engagement! May this season be a time you’ll grow even more in love with each other and go deeper in your faith.
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One valuable tip I’ve received when it comes to protecting wealth has been “count your change.”
You and your fiancé will be putting hard-earned money into your wedding. One way to be good stewards of God’s wealth is to be diligent and wise about managing it. Shepherds know where their sheep are sleeping and where they’re going. Likewise, we ought to know where our money “sleeps” and where it’s going!
Here are 6 tips on how to get organised with your wedding funds so you don’t keep losing your change.
1. Use a reliable online budget worksheet.
“But I’m not a spreadsheet person!” is a familiar resistance I get when I start talking about using a cloud-based worksheet, like Google Sheets, for efficient wedding planning.
You can use Google Sheets in its most basic form - simply to list wedding tasks or items with their corresponding dates or costs. If you really feel more comfortable writing things on paper, then so be it. You’ll just need to make that tool work for you and your fiancé because you both will need to constantly see the numbers and track their movements.
The benefits of using Google Sheets are:
- Collaboration. You and your fiancé may not always be physically together each time you work on wedding planning. If you have to do some planning over a call or video chat, you both can be looking at the same Google Sheet while typing your inputs at the same time. The file saves automatically with both of your entries.
- Portability. Your worksheet sits on the cloud, which means, you can access it through any device as long as you have a Gmail account. You don’t have to email each other back and forth with an Excel, Numbers, or OpenOffice attachment labeled “Version 12.a”.
- Automated Calculations. Other tools such as Excel or Numbers also offer this same functionality, and it’s tremendously time-saving. While those pull-out cardboard worksheets that wedding magazines provide may look pretty, be warned that you’re in for a lot of manual number-crunching.
- Revision History. “Can we reduce our budget for catering back to what we had agreed last week?” This is made easier using Google Sheets because you can see revision history and restore those older versions.
I’m all about leveraging things that already work! It’s one of my productivity mantras. By clicking on this, you can sign-up for my free Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet!
2. Modify the Budget Worksheet based on your needs.
Every wedding is unique. So feel free to modify my Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet to suit your needs. Feel free to remove items which aren’t relevant for your wedding. I’ve endeavoured to build a worksheet as comprehensive as possible to cover details of even the most elaborate of weddings.
How much detail do you need in terms of organising information? My rule is “just detailed enough to afford me more time in the future!” For example, I’d put the payment schedules for each supplier on the worksheet because that would save me time going through email correspondences with suppliers later on. Having these dates on the worksheet saves us time when strategising which suppliers to pay first.
Meanwhile, I would avoid adding links of the digital copies of the suppliers’ quotations on my Google Sheet because I can simply use Google Drive’s search functionality to find those quickly.
3. Put your payment deadlines on your calendar and set alerts.
Oh, those late payment fees. You’ll want to avoid them at all costs!
Being late for a payment means that you owe someone money for a period of time. And debt is not good. We all want to exemplify integrity. The wedding planning process creates opportunities to work with so many people. I encourage you to treat each contact with your suppliers as a chance to inspire them about Biblical ways of dealing.
Solution? Put all those payment deadlines on your online calendar! I use Google Calendar because it’s free, integrated with my email account, and easy to use!
- For every wedding item you need to pay for, check the payment deadline.
- Add the dates to your Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet under the ‘Budget Plan’ tab and under the ‘Payment Due Dates’ column. Having these dates on the sheet makes it easy for you to see the other payment deadlines for purposes of planning your cash flow.
- Add them to your calendar, or your fiancé’s calendar, or better yet your shared calendar. If you’re adding them to your personal calendar, include your fiancé as an invitee so that he can see the payment schedules on his calendar too.
- Set an alert one or two weeks before the payment deadline. This way you’re able to prepare the funds you need.
4. Study suppliers’ contracts, check invoices, and ask for receipts.
Let’s go back to my first point in this blog about being wise in managing our money. Since it’s actually God’s money that we’re managing (Read Matthew 25:14-30 about the ‘Parable of the Three Servants’), we have a responsibility to be diligent about it. So don’t be naive when it comes to dealing with suppliers.
As a diligent consumer, you’ll need to:
- READ contracts thoroughly. Ask about things that you don’t understand. Discuss them with your fiancé before signing together. A contract is meant to bind two parties, and if on your wedding day your supplier doesn’t deliver as agreed in the contract, you have the right to be compensated accordingly.
Wedding suppliers, especially those who’ve been at it for a while, think and act like business people (because they are). While your current state newly-engaged-bliss has you feeling like the only girl in the world (I recall the feeling), the reality is that you’re one of the many brides (and couples) that these suppliers are serving at this point in time. So contracts tend to be templated. But there is always room to modify based on what you agree on.
- Put everything in WRITING. “I think I would prefer if you write our order down, please” my husband often suggests in his courteous (but firm) tone whenever a waiter attempts to commit our meal order to memory. We’ve had enough bad experiences with food mix-ups to know that it’s not worth the risk to rely on memory alone.
The same is true with your orders from your suppliers. Insist that everything be put in writing, even the modifications you make to your requests. Thank God for email apps on our phones, you can email your supplier right away:“Ella, as spoken on the phone, we will have 6 bridesmaids bouquets instead of 4. Please confirm this on email.” It can be as simple as that.
- VERIFY the breakdown of what your suppliers are charging you. Once you receive invoices, make sure that you’re being charged correctly based on what you’ve agreed, and make sure that their computation is accurate. Check for taxes, service charges, miscellaneous fees, early payment discounts, and late payment fees.
One of our wedding suppliers had handed us a written invoice. All the components were correct. But I noticed an odd number. Their 10% service fee was computed as 20% instead! It was a matter of pressing the wrong buttons on the calculator.
- ASK for a receipt. An invoice is different from a receipt. An invoice is your bill. It’s not a confirmation that you’ve paid. After you’ve settled your payment, immediately ask for a receipt. Do your part in letting your suppliers know that you’ve paid the right amount within the right time frame.
Getting into legal disputes is the last thing you want to do when you’re focused on getting married. So being organised from the very beginning can spare you a lot of headache and heartache.
5. Upload digital copies of your contracts, invoices and receipts.
During the last stretch of our wedding planning, our planner fell silent for a few weeks. We were planning our wedding from Singapore and the planner was in Bali. We needed to know whether our service agreement included coordination with our guest transportation because we needed to finalise it at that point.
Having the contracts saved in our shared Google Drive folder saved us time from having to sift through over 150 emails with our wedding planner (no exageration!).
Another benefit of keeping these digital copies is so that you can attach them in an email later on to let your suppliers know of the status of your payments.
Tip for organising files on Google Drive: name your files in a way that’s descriptive, intuitive, and memorable, with simple words that you’d likely use when referring to the document in question. For example, ‘Latest Contract with 123 Caterer in Bali’. For the not-so-organised among you, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can just dump all of the files into one folder. There’s no need for subfolders because organising files into subfolders will likely take you more time than the act of doing a quick search on Google Drive using descriptive words.
6. Update your budget worksheet with every dollar that comes in and out.
You may be diligently paying your suppliers on time, but if you forget to to reflect this update in your planning documents, your partner will be wondering why your wedding funds are depleting so rapidly!
Practice discipline by updating your budget worksheet right after you make a payment to a supplier, or when you receive some income that you’ll put into your wedding fund. This way, you are able to commit to the budgets you’ve set.
If you decide to only merge your bank accounts after marriage, that means your wedding money may be coming from at least two bank accounts. Both of you may then have to do the updating of the budget worksheet with the money that you disburse from your own bank account, or anything that comes in that’s intended for your wedding budgets.
There you go! As you follow these steps throughout your wedding planning process, take confidence that you’re learning valuable skills that will be useful for your work and homemaking. Consider this as a training ground for planning other marriage milestones like a surprise party for your spouse, facilitating papers for your kids’ enrollments, and purchasing a home!
How do you get organised when planning a major project? Share in the comment section below!
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And just when you thought your current expenses were already staggering, the wedding comes along.
Don’t fret though. Firstly, there are plenty of ways to have a stunning wedding without breaking the bank. Secondly, you are not doing this alone. This is also your fiancé’s exciting challenge. Lastly, I’m here to help you wrap your head around this subject and be the most helpful and wisest fiancée that you can be.
To get the most out of this 4-part blog series about Weddings and Money, read this introduction first.
To begin this series, I’ll let you in on some talking points that will definitely help you build a wedding fund without borrowing money.
1. Talk about your spending habits.
This topic was perhaps off limits when you and your fiancé were still dating. The engagement period is a great time to understand how exactly you spend your money individually.
Why? Well let me ask you, when else will you talk about it? When you’re already married? You wouldn’t want surprises in this area.
It’s important to ask each other, “How do you spend your money?”
The way we spend is linked to ingrained habits. Because of this, I doubt that you or he will immediately change the way you spend after saying “I do.” And if you find anything amiss with your or your partner’s spending habits, I suggest consulting your mentors and a financial planner as to how to move forward. As nerve-racking as it can be, you need to talk about this.
My Wiser Weddings: Personal Finance Worksheet that you can sign up here will help you both map your spending. This is fairly easy if you’ve been using a budget tracker. If you haven’t, it’s a little more work, but it’ll be worth it.
2. Talk about where you are financially.
You’d want to go into further details about your financial standing. Take this time to put everything on the table. Here are questions you should be asking each other:
- Do you have any debt?
Debt brings anxiety to our lives! You both wouldn’t want to be surprised after the wedding day by a news that your budget for your honeymoon will need to go to paying an undeclared debt.
David Ramsey in this blog says it this way, “What you need to know is, ‘He’s got $42,321 in debt between student loans and credit card debt. He cut up the cards and started paying off debt before we ever met, and he’s got a plan to be debt-free in 22 months.’ Those are the details you need.”
I completely agree.
Debts include credit card balances, loans, and payments still owed on assets like house and cars. I’ll break this down in my Wiser Weddings: Personal Finance Worksheet.
While it’s not the reality for everyone, being debtless upon entering marriage is one of the wisest situations to be in. Thus, if you still have the time and resources to clear off debts before your wedding day, do so! Your future selves will thank you, believe me.
2. How much do you earn?
I’d like to start with the debt first so the bad news is over (if any). Moving forward, the next thing you’d like to ask each other is how much you individually earn. What each of you are earning will eventually be both yours (like how any debt will be both yours).
This is where you can be looking to see if none of you have saved up anything for the wedding before you were engaged (which is the case for most couples!). Talk about your net income because gross can be deceiving. That's not what you or he will be taking home.
3. What assets do you have?
Again, this may come off as being sneaky and nosy only if you don’t really embrace the concept of financial intimacy in marriage. Identifying all your assets helps both of you understand if you have enough liquid assets to pay the wedding.
These assets include money in the bank (or savings), investments, house, cars, jewellry, among others. Again, refer to my Wiser Weddings: Personal Finance Worksheet.
I wouldn’t suggest touching any emergency fund or non-liquid assets for your wedding. You’d much rather bring those into your marriage so you start on a blissful note.
TIP: Before talking about items #1 & #2, pray that God strips you off pride or judgement. You may not feel comfortable talking about these at first, especially if there is any disparity between you and your fiancé’s financial standing. Setting financial intimacy as your marriage goal this early is helpful. Your fiancé will be the closest person you’ll have in your life, so you ought to be honest to him, and vice versa.
3. Identify where your wedding funds will come from.
In a perfect world, there’s a wedding fund that’s been set aside between the two of you. But this is rarely the case.
The next best scenario is to save up for the wedding during your engagement period. This means, not touching your emergency fund, investments, or other assets. You may have to drop some very big expenses like travels, or move to a cheaper rental place and put the savings towards your wedding fund.
Before the engagement, Mike and I had been separately setting aside 15% of our incomes for savings and investments. From the first month of our engagement until the wedding day, we decided that we would both put that combined amount towards our wedding funds.
We still tried to save anything we could from our daily spending. We put traveling with friends on hold and kept our fun activities on a down low during our engagement period (which was 8 months). We still had so much fun because we found ways to be thrifty!
Our approach doesn’t have to be yours. While we’re happy that we didn’t have to borrow money for the wedding or touch our existing emergency funds and investments, there could still be an even wiser way than ours. Like sticking to a much smaller budget.
I HIGHLY discourage anyone from borrowing money for the wedding. This includes charging the expenses on credit card without a plan of repaying them in less that 30 days. You wouldn’t want to start your marriage in debt. Some people borrow money from their family and commit to paying it within a definite time. Evaluate this option very well because you also wouldn’t want to strain any relationships in the event that you both couldn’t keep your promise.
I believe that your wedding can still be beautiful, with whatever savings you can afford.
4. Discuss your position on gifts.
In some cultures, wedding cash gifts are very much expected that they’re computed as part of the wedding fund before they’re even received!
I would err on the side of being conservative and not account it as part of your wedding budget. A gift, after all, is a gift. The giver has no obligations of giving such a gift. Again, I may be contradicting many cultures, but this is at least what I believe the Bible says about gifts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gifts! It think that it’s God’s way of pampering us! And I (and our family) have received many!
I just find that there’s a wiser way of handling wedding cash gifts - by saving them instead of spending them for the wedding.
This way, you can also avoid pressures from anyone who’d give gifts with obligations (e.g. their choice of venue, their friends’ inclusion on your guest list, etc.).
How to prepare your part:
- Pray about how you would talk to your fiancé about this topic. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
- Sign up here for the Wiser Weddings: Personal Finance Worksheet. This includes a worksheet to crunch the numbers for steps 1 & 2.
- Go through your bank accounts, budget tracker, and other financial documents to fill out the worksheet provided.
- Have a plan to pay any debt now! Consult a financial planner on how to do this.
- Share with your fiancé about what you’ve learned.
How to prepare together:
- Pray together. Matthew 18:19-20 says
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
- Schedule a time together to share about your financial standing based on the four talking points I discussed above.
If after the conversation, you are concerned about your or your partner’s financial situation, you can read this this.
Reading this after you’ve already figured out where your wedding funds will come from? Share with me in the comment section below how you both talked about it. Thanks in advance!
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Vodka. Soak your diamond ring in it to make it sparkle. At least that’s my trick.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been fidgeting a lot with your new engagement ring since the day he proposed. It’s a fantastic feeling! I remember, I would gaze out the window and daydream for hours about my soon-to-be life as a wife.
And then it hit me: We need to plan a wedding!
After my then-fiancé-now-husband and I talked about this, we were faced with a question that left me feeling so uncertain.
“How much will our wedding cost?”
How do you even begin to answer this question?
Thank God we got help from couples who were married ahead of us.
In this four-part series, I compile a step-by-step guide to tackle what could be the most daunting element of the wedding planning process: money.
I’m taking my time to cover this topic because I’d really like to help you (and your fiancé) navigate through this part of the wedding planning process with excellence.
Why all the focus? Because I believe that the way you handle money for your wedding sets you up for the way that you’ll handle money for the rest of your married life.
Think biblical stewardship. Our responsibility as Jesus-followers is to manage God’s wealth, and manage it well. And your wedding will be one of the earliest and biggest opportunities to practice this as a couple. I won’t go into too much scriptural detail on what the Bible says about money management because there’s already plenty of great content available on this. Click here to check out one of my favourites.
Another principle that I’ll be touching on in this series is the idea that “what’s his is yours, and what’s yours is his.” Yes, the Bible talks about being one as husband and wife, which also applies to your finances. Check out this blog by someone who’s been married for 30 years (wow!) and shares about financial intimacy in marriage.
To get the most out of this blog series, I strongly suggest that you:
- Go through each post in sequence.
- Set a time with your fiancé to share your learnings and discuss your reflections
- Sign-up for the tools that I share in the blogs. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They’re meant to make wedding planning easier for you and free you up to spend time on more important things (like preparing for your marriage).
- Leave me comments along the way. I’d be happy to address them as best as I can.
So here are my 4 Lessons on Weddings & Money:
- Building a Wedding Fund Without Borrowing Money
- Creating a Wedding Budget You Won’t Regret in Marriage
- Sticking to Your Wedding Budget While Investing In Your Future Marriage
- How to Get Organised With Your Wedding Funds
Anything else you’d like me to write about regarding ‘Weddings & Money’? Please write in the comment section below!